Shannon Airport and its colourful and celebrity studded historic past will feature in a radio documentary on BBC Radio 4 tonight (Saturday 19th).
The idea for the programme came about when Christine Finn was on a transatlantic flight.
A communication between the crew and air traffic controllers was accidentally broadcast over the PA system the passenger cabin. She heard the voice of a controller as they reached Irish airspace which she said “seemed to be welcoming her as well as the pilot.”
Finn, who has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for 40 years said: “It genuinely came about when I heard the cockpit radio, long before I started presenting documentaries on BBC radio.”
As a creative archaeologist, Finn wanted to unravel the connections between those who fly the Atlantic and those who guide them safely over, especially when she discovered that datalink – effectively text messaging – is increasingly being used, so that voice communication is on the wane.
Christine Finn said: “Listening to archive of transatlantic flights from the first by Alcock and Brown in 1919, I discovered that the west coast of Ireland looms large in the history. I visited Shannon airport, scene of many departures and reunions and, in the 1950s and 60s – before the jet engine – a stop-over for most of the popular icons of the day as their planes re-fuelled after the 3000 mile flight.
Every US President since JFK has visited Shannon, and most stars from Marilyn Monroe to Fred Astaire,” she said.
Christine also visited the North Atlantic Communications Centre in nearby Ballygirreen in Co Clare where she met the faces behind the voices she heard coming out of the dark on her own Atlantic crossing.
Founded in 1936 to provide long range communications for the transatlantic flying boat service located in nearby Foynes, today the centre is responsible for communicating via long distance radio with over 1,000 transatlantic flights every day.
The programme will be aired this evening (Saturday) on BBC Radio 4 at 8.00pm.